Tuesday, January 8, 2008

David Allen Sibley sights Slaty-backed Gull in Gloucester

I’m always inclined to click on a bird-related story when reading the news online. Sometimes they’re related to conservation issues, but most often they’re concerning seasonal or rare sightings. This is usually the case on the Cape Cod Times Website, and I’m thrilled that Cape Cod birding has gained enough prominence in the paper to warrant a dedicated columnist, Vernon Laux, and home page features.

Birding stories on the Boston Globe’s home page; however, are not as common. This is why today’s blurb on the Slaty-backed Gull caught my eye—this had to be a truly rare sighting to win such prominent placement.

I was completely unaware of this species, being the novice that I am; however, I still wanted to share in the excitement of a rare sighting and learn more about the details. According to the Globe, he spotted the bird at Jodrey Fish Pier in Gloucester right before Christmas and later that day there was another sighting at Coast Guard Beach in Eastham. These, combined with another separate sighting in Gloucester, made a total of three for the day.

To read the full story visit Boston.com: Slaty-backed Gull

To read David Sibley's personal comments about the sighting visit his blog: Sibley Guides Notebook

I did some more research and learned that the Slaty-backed Gull is a coastal breeding species that is common to Asia, wintering in Japan, Korea and China. Often it wanders to the western Alaskan coast, but it is very rare anywhere else in North America. For it to be spotted on the opposite coast is unbelievable! However, the man on the Cape who spotted it theorized that more are being spotted thanks to better technology such as sharper binoculars.

This is all great motivation to get out there and start look for visiting winter birds myself! I have some pictures from my trip to the Cape last weekend. Although I didn't snap any pictures of anything too interesting, I did encounter a bird that resembled a tern but was larger, was making a chattering sound and was roosting high in a tree on the outskirts of a marsh. I started researching it the other night and I'll try to have a good guess before I throw it out to you all.

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